Reality competitions and Real Housewives meet theater with Real PlaNet Life and Luster


Real life, or the reality of reality TV, has a way of playing tricks on audiences, whether they’re watching the genre or not. A new mainstream tease, for example, involves a mix of the Variety Cities of the Bravo Real Housewives Network – Teresa Giudice, Kyle Richards and Kenya Moore – wearing burnt cork and shoulder pads not normally used for Norma Kamali women’s clothing in an advertisement for DIRECTV Football. As The Housewives take on quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, Prescott actually manages a meta moment, feet from flipping a dining room table to the big ‘prostitute’ stage of Giudice of its first season.

“What kind of person flips a table,” asks Giudice.

And so it continues. We are all part of the joke, if not the joke itself.

This month, several concept-driven theater/performance companies, such as Applied Mechanics and JUNK, are using the form in which to cable-skip the competitive heartbeat of reality TV and use a Real Housewives metaphorical vibe in which to narrate. a larger story in showcases such as Real PlaNet Life and Luster, respectively.

Initially inspired by animated shows like Dancin’ and Bob Fosse’s Pilobolus on Broadway in the 1970s, JUNK choreographer and dancer Brian Sanders eventually turned to the concept-driven art of movement that each production has grown in scope, space (he enjoys finding unique performance spaces and building shows from the skeleton of each property) and athleticism.

By the time we get to JUNK’s Luster, a meditation on overexposure and the depths of derision and despair people will do for fortune and fleeting fame, Sanders has given his dancer-performers a quest: pretend you’re on a competition based on fictional web series, TRAGIC, and fight for your right to parry, lunge, and retaliate — not so metaphorically.

“The world of reality TV intrigues me because when blown up, when done right, it can be both gruesome and mind-blowing,” Sanders says of his desire to explore and exploit. the false medium in what he calls the Luster meeting. of RuPaul’s Drag Race and The Amazing Race, held in one room, the Concourse Dance Bar in downtown Philadelphia. “It’s so unbelievable and so fake, all at the same time,” Sanders says of the reality TV genre and his willingness to parody and play along. Luster, try to digest this dichotomy. This also happens in the Instagram/TikTok world, where all that hard work is put into 30 seconds of a personal “wow” factor. That’s impressive on its own, but if you take it out of context and blast it, that kind of reality is its own form of raw art.

For a slightly less physical and oddly intellectualized take on housewives, real, unreal, and even perhaps otherworldly, the Applied Mechanics collective sets its own rules just as Sanders JUNK makes theirs.

Starting with the Applied Mechanics manifesto (“We value cooperation. We value each person’s unique contribution to the work we do together. As a collective, we are feminist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist, anti-colonial, anti-normative, and pro- Black. For us, these values ​​mean the dismantling of all hierarchies and inequitable power relations. We create stories that aim to expand the possibility of liberation for all beings – beginning with ourselves. Our work together and the ‘art we create must respect these values’), his reality film REAL PLANET LIFE looks at extraterrestrial life in a production made by and for extraterrestrials: Real Housewives meets AND meets the Muppets.

You can buy tickets for the film here and its physical version exists at the Vox Populi Gallery in Philadelphia until October 2.

Applied Mechanics collective members Severin Blake (who stars in Real PlaNet Life) and Rebecca Wright (who directs Real PlaNet Life as part of the company’s Other Orbits multimodal performance series, talked about their process of cutting and dicing of reality.


“We embarked on a sci-fi journey this time around,” Blake says of the reality that Applied Mechanics were poised to explode beyond guarding ideals this time around. “We want to give our artists an agency. Everyone in the collective writes their own characters, our own songs, our own stories.

That Applied Mechanics then gives these characters its own collective vision of a dream is how we arrive – perhaps – at the familial aspects of the Real Housewives ideal – a concept bound by a specific region, factors socio-economics, a fierce determination and a will to propel it all into something dynamic, but absurd. However, the out-of-control egos that drive the boisterous Real Housewives — wherever they live — are the same set of egos that a collective like Applied Mechanics compresses and unifies for its vision and results. “We’re connected to each other and each other’s stories — not everyone is good at listening, having agency as a group, or working collaboratively,” Wright says.

Babysitting is part of what started the new concept Real PlaNet Life, questions about how we as people care for each other over time in times of great upheaval and change. “We show the beautiful joy behind getting it all done and the flaws of how we can go all wrong too,” Blake says.

The way these earnest, poignant, and truly generous human themes feed into the Real Housewives/Big Brother motif, a ridiculous ensemble piece filled with selfish rage and high-priced shoes, is what supercharges Real PlaNet Life with an eerie energy and an existential ardor.

Severin Blake laughs, trying to avoid spoilers, as she announces that her character is being visited by many family members she hasn’t seen in a long time – “Will it be a party or will it be she a real mess?” she asks. . “There are times when we need a confessional, a side eye to show what the fools around me are doing?”

Wright continues about the brightly colored bubblegum pop of Real PlaNet Life: “Have you ever noticed that when you live together or are close to a group, if you don’t laugh, you cry? You know how on reality TV you get shows like The Real World where the concept is to put all these “weirds” in one house to see what happens? Well, Applied Mechanics wanted to know if we could do this with aliens…. We give ourselves permission to play with the sometimes tragic, but often hilarious circumstances of cohabitation, and find our way around.


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